It was no surprise the Cyclones wanted to add another defensive lineman to their 2014 class — we reported as much a few days after Signing Day — but Monday's release that it was Trent Taylor came a bit out of left field, seeing as it had been two weeks since Taylor's official visit to Ames and he had kept so quiet.
The Cyclones in their press release listed Taylor as a defensive end, keeping the number of true DTs in the class at zero while increasing the JUCO ends to a quartet: Taylor, Dale Pierson, Gabe Luna and Terry Ayeni, although Ayeni could slide inside to three-technique and hold up well.
A member of the 2012 class, Taylor was a four-star and No. 29 defensive end coming out of Lake Gibson High in Lakeland, Florida, who committed to Al Golden and Miami before later flipping to Tennessee (Taylor played one game for the Vols in 2012 before leaving the program; he was later arrested on drug charges).
At Butler (KS) JUCO, Taylor played opposite Cyclones signee Luna and was an honorable mention All-Conference selection, recording 32 tackles and three sacks.
Listed as 6-foot-2, 250 pounds by ISU in the press release, Taylor most likely projects as a defensive end this fall (he has two seasons of eligibility and will enroll in the summer as a junior).
While new ends coach Stan Eggen will take time to sort out a rotation and scheme, it looks like the Cyclones will have a much better pass rush than they did in 2013, when they were dead last in the Big 12 with 15 sacks. ISU was No. 10 in rushing yards allowed per game and No. 7 in passing yards yielded, a direct consequence of the four-man front unable to generate pressure on the quarterback.
The injection of four new ends, along with the development of Cory Morrissey and Mitchell Meyers, and whatever the intriguing Justin Madison might deliver, gives ISU the ability to get after the passer while coordinator Wally Burnham maintains his conservative 4-3 principles in the back end (read: minimal blitzing).
There's at least one starting spot up for grabs with the graduation of Willie Scott (Cory Morrissey is a good player, but he'll have to prove to a new coach he's the best in a strong bunch of ends). The favorite to replace Scott is Pierson, who was incredibly productive rushing the passer at Pasadena JUCO (11.5 sacks).
Playing time could be tough to manage, but as we reported last week the Cyclones may toy with the idea of an end-heavy front four on passing downs, somewhat like what the New York Giants have down with their NASCAR sets.
As for the recruiting numbers, ISU has discussed with high school cornerback signee Mike Johnson the possibility he takes a grayshirt, which would count him toward the 2015 class and allow him to enroll after next fall. More clarity on that front should come shortly.
Are the Cyclones finished with the class? The smart money says yes, especially with attention turning to Spring Ball, but if there's any one constant in recruiting, it's to never say never — especially if an interested and ready-to-play nosetackle emerged before the April 1 signing deadline.